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Friday, Sep 29, 2023

Seventh Generation - Burlington business takes steps towards a clean future

Today’s world is plagued with environmental disasters erupting left and right. Companies like Seventh Generation are taking action to curb the negative consequences of these catastrophes. A Burlington, Vt. based company, Seventh Generation is one of the state’s “socially responsible” businesses. It sells natural, environmentally friendly products for personal care and household use. Founded by Alan Newman and Jeffrey Hollendar in 1988, the company now reaps over $150 million a year in sales.

Seventh Generation’s website quotes Hollendar. “We want our products to make a difference — from their development through to their production, purchase, use and disposal,” he said. “We are always evaluating how to reduce their environmental impact, increase performance and safety and create a more sustainable supply chain.”

The company’s past traces back to Renew America, an environmental agency founded in the 1980s. It started as a small business with a mail order catalog that sold non-toxic, energy efficient products. Though Renew America had aspirations for the future, it struggled financially and was on the verge of closure. Its business executives met the two active entrepreneurs, Newman and Hollendar, also environmental junkies. Renew America sold their catalog to the men, and soon after Newman and Hollendar founded Seventh Generation. The new business revamped the catalog and expanded its product line. Consumers could now buy Seventh Generation goods in natural food stores. Today, the Middlebury Co-Op sells these household and personal care products.

“Product development is based on the precautionary principle: We won’t use it if it’s not proven safe for human and environmental health first as opposed to conventional CPG companies that select materials that are innocent until proven guilty,” said Meghan Butler, the media director for Seventh Generation. “Ultimately, we want to provide eco-friendly, naturally derived and effective products based on consumer need and behavior.”

Seventh Generation got its name from the simple belief of the Iroquois Confederacy: each individual has a responsibility to think about their actions in terms of the effects they will have on the next seven generations, who must deal with the consequences.

Company employees also embody Seventh Generation’s goal to educate the public to lead a greener lifestyle. Butler herself encourages individuals to recognize how their habits affect the planet and their personal lives. She advocates pro-active living, such as making cleaning solutions by combining baking soda and white vinegar and dressing babies in cloth diapers, which can be easily washed.

Butler also encourages consumer to read the labels on products they purchase. Individuals, she thinks, must be aware of the ingredients in their products and should question why certain items have been added. She hopes people can become “conscious consumers” because it is now more important than ever for individuals to critically examine their favorite brands. Some companies manipulate customers to believe their products are non-toxic and made with biodegradable, healthy ingredients, when the opposite rings true.

“Purchasing environmentally friendly products from a company that was born green inside and out and didn’t have to retrofit its operations or products to boast as much proves that preserving, and to some extent improving the environment for generations to come, is fundamentally important,” she said.

Seventh Generation sells a range of products from disinfectants and household cleaners to baby and feminine supplies. Customer favorites include dish liquid, bath tissue, laundry detergents and diapers.

The Burlington business also has an interactive website, where people can discuss environmentally friendly activities, get advice from experts, join forums and comment on blogs. In addition, the company offers customers complete lists of the ingredients in each of its products; this transparency cultivates a level of trust between the business and its consumers.

“We’re very excited to provide the first EPA-registered disinfecting cleaners that are proven to kill 99.99 percent of germs and viruses naturally,” said Butler. “This is a first to-market category that finally solves one of big problems for consumers who want to clean green and non-toxic: How can I stay green and still kill germs?”

These disinfecting sprays and wipes hit shelves in January. Whole Food shoppers, in particular, are delighted. A recent press release quotes Chuck Maniscalco, the Chief Executive Officer of Seventh Generation. He said, “It is increasingly important to protect our health and that of our children by implementing good hygiene practices and using disinfectants around the home that are effective without the use of harsh chemicals.” Especially given the recent H1N1 fears, consumers are pleased to finally have environmentally responsible products they can use in the house.

“Consumers now have a responsible, no-compromise solution,” said Butler.

Seventh Generation’s mission statement hopes “to inspire a more conscious and sustainable world by being an authentic force for positive change.” The company wants to build a healthy world for future generations by educating and actively encouraging consumers to acknowledge the entire ecosystem and the impact of their decisions. Seventh Generation also donates 10 percent of its sales to environmental campaigns and organizations, hoping to advance its commitment to a non-toxic future.

The business wants consumers to use products that that work best in their homes, but hopes customers understand the consequences if they purchase toxic supplies. Seventh Generation inspires people to use healthy household and personal products to ensure a future for generations to come.